Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Capital and Counties Plc v Hampshire CC  QB 1004;
 3 WLR 331;  2 All ER 865;  EWCA Civ 309;  2 Lloyd's Rep 161;
(1997) 147 NLJ 599; (1997) 141 SJLB 92
NEGLIGENCE, FIRE BRIGADE, DUTY OF CARE, DAMAGE BY FIRE, LIABILITY FOR NEGLIGENCE, BREACH OF STATUTORY DUTY
The decision is on three conjoined appeals from three separate decisions. Hampshire County Council (HCC) – the defendant, appealed a decision that the fire brigade was liable in negligence for turning off a sprinkler system when attending a fire at Capital and Counties (CC) premises, which caused the fire to get out of control and cause substantial damage to CC’s property. In the second case, the plaintiff’s building was destroyed by fire after fire at an adjacent building had been extinguished, the fire brigade had inspected the scene to ensure this and had left. The court ruled that the fire brigade owed no duty of care to the plaintiff and the plaintiff appealed. In the third cased, the plaintiff’s building was destroyed by fire after the fire brigade failed to ensure adequate water supply, which delayed its operation. The plaintiff claimed damages for negligence and breach of statutory duty under s. 13 Fire Services Act 1947. The action was dismissed and the plaintiff appealed the decision.
(1) Is the fire brigade under a common law duty to answer a call for help or to take care to do so?
(2) Does merely attending the scene of a fire give rise to a duty of care on behalf of the fire brigade in respect to the owners or occupiers of premises?
(3) Does s. 13 Fire Services Act 1947 confer a right to private action on a member of the public injured by its breach?
(4) Is the fire brigade immune from negligence claims when its negligence led to injury?
All appeals were dismissed.
(1) Following Stovin v Wise  1 AC 923, the fire brigade’ statutory powers to act cannot be converted into a common law duty to answer a call for assistance or to take care to do so.
(2) The fire brigade does not have sufficiently proximate relationship with the owners or occupiers of premises, so it does not come under a duty of care by merely attending and fighting the scene.
(3) S. 13 Fire Services Act 1947 does not confer a right to private action on a member of the public affected by its breach. Therefore, the appeals in the second and third cases were dismissed.
(4) However, where the fire brigade by their negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury, there is no reason to give them immunity from suit. Thus, the appeal in the first case was dismissed.
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